Living in and out of psychiatric hospitals, the artist Audrey Amiss documented her everyday life in a striking visual diary. When she died, her family donated her archive of hundreds of scrapbooks, sketchbooks and notebooks to Wellcome Collection. In this series, archivist Elena Carter writes about cataloguing and caring for the collection to understand the artist’s life, which is also the subject of the feature film ‘Typist Artist Pirate King’, directed by Wellcome Screenwriting Fellow Carol Morley.
Who was Audrey Amiss?
Elena Carter introduces the vast collection left behind by artist Audrey Amiss, who documented her life in astonishing detail.
Work begins in earnest to restore order to the archive Audrey Amiss kept of the minutest happenings in her life. Like detectives, the archivists search for subtle clues to chronology in the mass of materials.
Audrey and her family
In working on Audrey Amiss’s archive, Elena is getting closer to understanding her. But the way her niece and nephew remember Audrey adds essential detail to the picture.
Elena describes how specially designed storage allows Audrey’s scrapbooks to retain all traces of her creative process, although their intrinsic fragility means deterioration is almost inevitable.
Building digital images of what Audrey created means that her work can be frozen in time – for the digital version, at least, the process of decay is halted, and any number of people can view it without the risk of damaging it.
Audrey in the world
As the collection is fully catalogued, the archive is opened up to the public. A feature film about Audrey premieres, and Audrey gets her own Wikipedia page, so people can learn about her. For archivist Elena, it’s time to step back.
- Short film
In this short film, archivist Elena Carter talks about how she worked with Audrey’s scrapbooks to preserve her individual voice within her archive.
- Short film
In this short film, conservator Stefania Signorello explains how she approached the unique challenge of preserving Audrey’s scrapbooks as she created them.